A history of tuberculosis

  • Edward L. Pesanti


Thus did Shakespeare describe the medieval healing of scrofulous subjects by the kings of England. The ‘king’s touch’, supplemented in earlier years with the issuance of a gold coin, was an old tradition at the time of Shakespeare, variously attributed to Edward the Confessor or Clovis the Great (depending on whether the writer lived on the English or French side of the English Channel). Queen Anne (1665–1714) is said to have discontinued the custom though the rite remained in the English Book of Common Prayer for another half century [1]. While there may have been trepidations at discontinuance of the custom, it appears that the gold coin was quite as important as the royal touch because ‘... many that have been touched, have upon loss of their Gold felt returns of their Malady, which upon recovery of that have vanished’ [2]. While Wiseman, in 1696, went to great pains to establish the pre-eminence of the English monarch in this therapeutic endeavor [2], Lowe, in 1597, failed to mention the royal cure in his chapter on scrofula [3]. It is difficult to imagine that the author of the first surgical text written in English was unfamiliar with the custom. It is more likely that prudence and the adage suggesting that silence is preferable to derogatory comments were the main influences on Lowe.


Pulmonary Tuberculosis Gompertz Equation Gold Coin Tuberculous Lymphadenitis British Medical Research Council 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1995

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  • Edward L. Pesanti

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